Wednesday, November 25, 2015

11/25 Larry Van Aalst talks with Christopher Sawyer & Nancy Walker

Christopher Sawyer - Long time Sommelier

Chris recently has branched out as a Journalist, Consultant , and is involved in all aspects of wine. We talk about his involvement in the choice of wine for the White House Thanksgiving dinner , and the upcoming holiday events in Northern California Wine Country.

Nancy Walker - Partner at Stephan & Walker 

Nancy has long been  involved in the business of wine. One of three partners in Stephan & Walker, she consistently wins top awards at wine competitions. Our conversation is about making a sweepstakes winning late harvest wine, and what to look forward to in the 2015 vintage lineup.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

11/11 Larry Van Aalst talks with Chris Smith

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is at the top of the list for California Wine County Newspapers. Chris is the doyen of writers for the paper covering all aspects of Wine Country life. We will talk about the terrible fire in Lake County and our prospects for ending the dry spell . As the best resource about local happenings, Chris will also give us the story on what to do when visiting Sonoma County during the Fall and Holiday season. 

Also, I have an update on the changes in the Equus Restaurant and The FountainGrove Inn. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

10/28 Larry Van Aalst talks to Jon Phillips & Bob Peak

Inspiration Vineyards is one of the boutique wineries in Sonoma . Jon, the Owner/Winemaker comes to winemaking after a very successful career in the IT industry.
Having established Inspiration Vineyards, a Urban Winery, Jon has gone on to win accolades from the press, and many awards in wine competitions. We will talk about the 2015 vintage , and what to do this time of year in Northern California . 

The Beverage People is without a question the most successful wine, beer, vinegar, and cheese making supply house north of San Francisco. Bob is a partner and teacher for the shop and has his thumb on the pulse of what is happening in the world of homemade fermented staples.  We will talk about the perfect holiday gift for the wine, cheese, vinegar, and beer fan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10/14-Larry Van Aalst talks with Mike Martini & Chris Morano

Mike Martini - General Manager, Taft Street Winery 

As a principle in Taft Street Winery , one might think that Mike has more than enough on his plate. President of The Harvest Fair Board of Directors , and being the past Mayor of Santa Rosa are just a couple of the extras he has taken on. Mike will be with us to talk about the recent harvest , and what he believes the 2015 vintage promises.

Chris Morano - Chief Concierge, FountainGrove Inn 

As Chief Concierge at The FountainGrove Inn, Chris is in charge of making your stay as memorable as possible. Tickets to a concert, private winery tours, special events, these are just a sample of what he can arrange. We will talk about the often overlooked Sonoma County attractions , and how a Concierge can make your trip something special.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Immerse yourself in the food and wine culture of Sonoma County at Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards. Kate MacMurray invites you to enjoy an afternoon of strolling through the historic MacMurray Estate Vineyards property while sipping and savoring the very best of Sonoma County’s rich wines and delectable cuisine. With more than 200 wineries pouring thousands of wines, and over 60 local chefs whipping up divine pairings, Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards delivers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for oenophiles and foodies alike. Informative and entertaining wine seminars, lively cooking demonstrations and so much more make for an enchanting afternoon enjoying the best of Sonoma County living. Named one of the “10 Best Wine and Food Events in the United States” by Celebrated Living magazine, Taste of Sonoma is a coveted ticket — Get yours before they sell out!



MacMurray Estate Vineyards is deeply rooted in Sonoma County. Our namesake vineyard, MacMurray Ranch, has been a farmstead since the 1850s, farmed by the Porter family until actor Fred MacMurray bought the ranch in 1941. Fred embraced the rancher’s lifestyle, raising prize-winning cattle and farming crops here for decades, while his children rode horses through the hills. Fred’s daughter—the actress, screenwriter and activist Kate MacMurray—retains an indelible tie to the estate, helping us share the heritage of our namesake vineyard, historic property and celebrated wine.

Transformed into a world-class vineyard in 1996, MacMurray Ranch quickly became one of the Russian River Valley’s most acclaimed Pinot Noir vineyards.  Today, MacMurray Estate Vineyards has grown to encompass estate vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley and the Central Coast, but we continue to honor our roots and the history of the MacMurray Ranch. The original buildings have been faithfully restored, and the 1,500-acre property is home to old-growth oaks, Redwood trees and indigenous wildlife. Winemaker Boyd Morrison and his team craft our collection of Pinot Noir wines, beginning with our home vineyard and extending to several estate vineyard sites throughout the Russian River Valley and the Central Coast.



Since brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo began to turn their dream into reality over 80 years ago, the roots of the Gallo family tree have extended deep into the Winery. Today their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren work in the Winery, carrying on the family tradition and values – a strong work ethic, a drive for perfection and a focus on quality.

The Gallo family still believes family ownership is the most effective way for the Winery to continue as a world leader in the wine industry.

Today, E. & J. Gallo Winery is the world's largest family-owned winery and the largest exporter of California wine.

Since its inception, the hallmark of E. & J. Gallo Winery’s founders has been their unwavering commitment to quality. By taking the utmost care in each and every step of the grape growing and winemaking process, E. & J. Gallo Winery has consistently delivered outstanding wines for every occasion and price. The Winery continues to be at the forefront of the winemaking industry by researching and determining the very best regions to grow grapes, using the most effective techniques for grape growing, and lastly, employing the best ways to craft world-class wines.

Gina Gallo followed the footsteps of her grandfather Julio Gallo to find her calling as winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve. Today she creates award-winning wines from grapes grown by her brother Matt Gallo.

For Gina, a career in winemaking was inevitable. During high school she worked summers at E. & J. Gallo Winery, and after college she joined the company full time in the sales department.
She was drawn to the creative process of making wine, and years later she began studying at the acclaimed Viticulture and Enology program at the University of California, Davis. At the Winery, she apprenticed under 30-year veteran Marcello Monticelli.

Gina is immediate past president of the International Wine & Spirit competition.



Our story begins more than 50 years ago, when a celebrated American dancer named Rod Strong settled in Sonoma County to pursue a second lifelong creative passion: winemaking. Rodney Strong Vineyards was the 13th winery bonded in the newly discovered Sonoma County wine industry. A trio of winemaking paths crossed when Rick Sayre joined the team as Winemaker in 1979, and again when the Klein Family, 4th generation California farmers, purchased the winery in 1989 and initiated a renewed commitment of modern artisan winemaking. Through the years, Rodney Strong Vineyards has earned the reputation for critically acclaimed Single Vineyard and Reserve wines, stand out Estate releases and best-in-class Sonoma County varietal wines.

Rachel Voorhees is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, where she graduated at the top of her class. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by Old World wine collectors, Rachel found a passion for wine and food early in life and credits her father for her palate and her mother for her culinary skills. Rachel studied at the International Culinary Center in 2012 where she continued to hone her wine pairing skills and wine knowledge. She was the food & wine writer for BevMo! and before coming to Rodney Strong in December 2013. Rachel’s focus is to educate people about wine, Sonoma County and Rodney Strong Vineyards. She travels throughout the country entertaining key members of the trade, conducting classes and seminars and sharing the wonders of wine and food.

After receiving her B.A. in Communications and Psychology from Vanderbilt University, she continued her education at Notre Dame de Namur where she received her Masters of Education. She is currently studying for her Certified Wine Educator and Advanced Sommelier credentials. In her free time, Rachel loves spending time with her two children, creating unique food and wine pairings and gardening.



Being a family-owned winery absolutely affects our winemaking. It affords us the luxury to take the long view. We can take risks and grow our grapes in mountain and hillside vineyards- even though it is more difficult for both the farmer and the vine. But grapes grown on mountains have more character and more flavor—and that’s why we grow them there.

As a family-run business, we can put the long-term interests of future generations above short-term financial gains. Our success will be measured by generations of family, rather than by numbers on quarterly reports. We can't just be thinking about today, or tomorrow, or this quarter, or this year. We have to take the long view—100, 200 years—and think of future generations and the environment in which they'll live.

There are some special places where you just want to be, to live. And among those places are the coastal maritime, cool hills and mountains of the California coast. I’m at peace and spiritually satisfied when I'm in the mountains and hills and benches of California—the very places where the best grapes thrive. The land gives us what we need. It gives us our shelter, our food, our clean air—all of the things we need, except for one: family.

Taste is everything here at Kendall-Jackson. And we don't just mean the wines. The Kendall-Jackson Wine Center is a culinary destination for foodies and wine lovers from all over the country, and the creative force behind the Wine Center is our team of culinary adventurers: our chefs.

Matt has been a member of Kendall-Jackson’s culinary team for many years.  A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America Matthew has worked in the kitchen, gardens and cellars of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates for nearly a decade. He brings to the table a wide variety of cooking experience from restaurants, healthcare, catering and corporate dining. Matthew specializes in vegetable dishes and the Kendall-Jackson culinary gardens offer an endless palette of seasonal produce and herbs to draw from.



The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCW has oversight by California Department of Food and Agriculture which supports producer regions.
With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world.

In January 2014, SCW committed to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.

Karissa Kruse is President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. Karissa joined Sonoma County Winegrowers as Director of Marketing in September 2012 and was named President for the organization on May 1, 2013. Karissa earned a BS in Economics and an MBA in Marketing from Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania. She has over 17 years of experience in various aspects of marketing, brand management, strategic planning and business development. Karissa has worked for companies such as General Mills, Universal Studios, Mattel and Dairy Management, where Karissa worked for seven years on behalf of dairy farmers nationally. She is a partner in a small winery, Argot Wines, and the owner of a 25 acre parcel in Bennett Valley, with five acres planted to grapes. Karissa is on the Advisory Committee for Wharton’s Initiative on Environmental Leadership and on the boards of the Sonoma County Tourism, Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm Foundation, Ag Trust Committee and Viticulture Advisory Committee and a member of Leadership Santa Rosa Class 29.  Kruse was selected as a NBBJ Women in Business 2014 Honoree and 40 under Forty Award recipient in 2012.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

9/16-Larry Van Aalst & Nicole Nielsen talk to Kate MacMurray & Ray Johnson

While the exceptional MacMurray Ranch Vineyard is home to some of California’s most renowned Pinot Noir vines, for Kate MacMurray, it is also a place of long-held, cherished memories. The MacMurray family farmed crops and raised cattle on this ranch for many years, taking an active role in the local agricultural community. Kate grew up hiking and riding her horse through the ranch’s majestic rolling hills.

ray_johnson.jpgRay Johnson - Director, Wine Businees Institute at Sonoma State University

Ray Johnson is the Director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. He also writes about wine from his home in Sonoma County. 

Ray has been writing about wine, food and the destinations where these passions intersect since 1980. He joined the wine business in 1986, leading tours for the public and trade at the historic Christian Brothers’ Greystone Cellars in Saint Helena, California.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

9/2 Larry Van Aalst visits with Matthew Lowe & Tucker Taylor

A special Heirloom Tomato Festival Report

Matthew Lowe- CIA Graduate & Kendall-Jackson Gardens
CIA graduate and ten years experience with the Kendall-Jackson gardens, makes Matt the pro to know at the KJ hospitality facility, just north of Santa Rosa. Matt will bring us some new releases and tell us what  to expect at the upcoming   Heirloom Tomato Festival.

Tucker Taylor -  Head Gardner, KJ Gardens
Head Gardner at the KJ gardens , Tucker is a miracle worker. With more than 175 different tomatoes and a wealth of other fruits , herbs, and vegetables , the gardens are a master work of the man who has a world wide reputation for excellence. We will talk about this years growing season and taste some of the bounty.